MoD-CBI team to leave for Italy to question Haschke

A team comprising MoD and CBI officials will go to Italy on Wednesday to question Swiss businessman Guido Haschke who is likely to be brought before the court on January 9. Haschke, an alleged middleman, is the key link between Indian defence officials and Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland which was awarded the Rs 3,546-crore contract by the government. After series of expose by The Indian Express in the alleged chopper scam, the defence ministry cancelled the contract early this month.

The CBI has registered a case against Brigadier V S Saini, who allegedly demanded a bribe of Euros 5 million from Haschke as per an entry made by the middleman in his diary. The diary was seized by Italian authorities and Indian investigators were given a copy of the same. The agency said that they plan to question Haschke on the "budget sheet" seized from him.

The "budget sheet" mentioned the names of several prominent politicians and defence officials who were reportedly paid bribes by the middleman. An SP-level officer from the CBI and a joint secretary from the MoD will attend the proceedings. The decision to register a case against Saini was taken by the CBI in order to prepare ground for Haschke's questioning. The CBI has booked former IAF Chief S P Tyagi, his three cousins, and nine others, including the two companies and European middlemen, involved in the alleged kickbacks of around Rs 362 crore.

In its FIR, the CBI alleged that Guido Haschke, through his Tunisia-based company Gordian Services Sarl, entered into several consultancy contracts with AgustaWestland from 2004-05 and also made consultancy contracts with the Tyagi brothers, cousins of the former IAF chief. Under cover of these contracts, Haschke allegedly made payoffs to the tune of Euros 1.26 lakh and Euros 2 lakh to the Tyagi brothers.

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